It’s been another sick year for grime. We’ve had Stormzy on the main stage of Glastonbury, D Double E beaming into homes nationwide and loads of talent on the underground pushing the sound organically. It’s a worldwide movement. The critics said it was dead, but the fact grime continues to thrive in the face of lacerating youth cuts and nearly ten years of Tory rule is a testament to the power of this music. This list is completely un ranked, more a collection of vocal grime tracks that I found myself returning to this year. Show it to your mates, see if your favourite tracks made it in or simply use it as a refresher on tracks that you missed or forgot about.

Kano, Ghetts & D Double E – Class of Deja

After five years away from the music game, Kano returned to bless us with his latest album ‘Hoodies All Summer’. The record was comprised of pertinent social commentary, as Kano used his own experiences to give an insight into life as a black person in the UK, as well as empathising with young people that might be facing similar things that he did. In among the analysis, the stories and the anecdotes was the unstoppable ‘Class of Deja’. It’s a celebration anthem, a party for the culture of spitting, encapsulating what makes grime music so great: the thrill of MCs constructing syntax at speed without inhibition; the rush of the mic being passed around at speed, spitting right up to the bleeding edge of the beat and giving no break in between. It’s perfectly weighted: Kano slaloms on the beat, every syllable delivered with clarity; Double brings the weight, bellowing out his catchphrases with authority; Ghetts provides a foil, mixing the technical with the impactful and bouncing off his fellow microphone comrades. Radio and live sets give grime its automatic quality, creating moments that can only be achieved when the intangible science adds up perfectly. Many MCs struggle to port this aura into a three minute song, but on ‘Class of Deja’, three legends of the UK combine to deliver a TKO of lyricism, character and energy.

Filthy Gears x FFSYTHO – Bop Through Ya Manor

FFSYTHO’s ‘come up’ has been very organic, proving that there really is no need for a big industry budget or fancy roll out. She went from uploading freestyles on her phone, being in the studio with Terror Danjah and eventually putting out this track with Filthy Gears. It speaks to how grime can be a breeding ground for the most unbridled of talent, allowed to flourish organically without the peering eyes of the industry looking on and rubbing their hands. ‘Bop Through Ya Manor’ is a display of technicality, as each one of FFSYTHO’s lyrics rumble like tectonic plates about to give way, ready to aim at anyone in the firing line and unconcerned with who gets hit with the shells. Hype talk is common place in grime, but rarely is it done with the flair that FFSYTHO displays on this track. She starts at 100mph and never stops, the lyrics wrapped tightly around the beat and relenting only for the hook. Generations collide on the instrumental, as Filthy Gears updates an old Dizzee Rascal classic, swapping out the weird minimalism of the original for an explosion of low end madness.

Snowy – REDDIT

Snowy has been dropping heat all year. We wrote about his latest one ‘EFFED’, a searing take on the establishment – your favourite political commentator could never, basically. Anyway, ‘REDDIT’ came out of his hot run: a throttling vocal over possibly the most alien riddim Filthy Gears has ever produced. The bulk of the track is based around Snowy’s issues with the grime scene, he critiques the output by lamenting the perceived lack of quality control from the artists. Later on, he pits himself as a grime lifer, which makes us wonder whether he thinks that grime should be defined by attitude rather than a rigid set of genre conventions. It could’ve just been fleeting frustration, and rappers studying the scene is nothing new, but it’s interesting to see the artist take the role of critic in a time where music criticism is seen to be dying. It proves that grime is a moving entity, and that the issues of the scene can be spoken about by the creators over outsiders in echo chambers. The rest of the track has all the full tilt attitude that graces his tracks, but also with the cuttingly honest anecdotes of mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. The biggest achievement? He managed to streamline such big subject matter into a track that absolutely blows your head off.

Skepta – Redrum

‘Ignorance is Bliss’ dealt with fatherhood and relationships gone awry, but it was full of bangers that put a fresh spin on the grime template. ‘Redrum’ was one of them, leaning into the sino-grime sound of the aughts and twisting it round with a freight-train bassline. Tasteless Ike Turner bar aside – Skepta goes hard, loading up clip after clip of bars and firing them all over the beat. Some may turn their nose up at the feature from Key! feeling as though it was an attempt from Skepta to blindly appeal to his growing US fanbase – but it gave the track a percussive element. After all, the voice is an instrument in its own right, and Key’s vibrato like delivery clashed against the beat the same way Sonic Youth would plaster a track with discords. The two styles are very different, with Key being a perfect foil for the machine like delivery that Skepta deploys. Americans on grime done right, without ever compromising the DNA of the track.

Big Zuu – The Struggle

Big Zuu’s earlier work was already good: he embodied the ever gassed, hyped up MC that gives radio sets that extra kick of energy. Since then, he’s levelled up. Perhaps owing to real life – or his experience as a youth worker – he has transformed into an artist with a genuine message, unafraid to explore new avenues with his sound. ‘The Struggle’ was the centrepiece of his latest EP ‘We Will Walk’; a three minute take down of the government executed with all the ruthlessness of a Liverpool FC counter attack. Here, he gave an acute analysis of the structural pitfalls of the system that we live in. It was packaged just right – his flow intensifying on just the right pockets of the beat – ensuring his words were felt with the exact clout they were intended to.

JME – Pricks

JME decided to forego streaming platforms by releasing ‘Grime MC’ on vinyl and CD. The run up to the release was unique in this era, as he set up decks on street corners and invited MCs to spit bars in the open, live streamed to the fans on Twitch. On ‘Pricks’, JME demands us to view his work on par with the most famous of artists. It’s an astounding run of bars, concluding with JME saying “There ain’t no clean version of Michaelangelo’s artwork with the penis hidden.” At face value it’s classic grime lyricism, reference points pulled from seemingly no where to create a lyric that’s hilarious and reload worthy. He has a point, though. Why shouldn’t artists that make grime and the surrounding genres feel that their output should be seen as high art? Why shouldn’t they refuse to dilute their message? Grime has given a generation of people a voice, while drill, rap and afro-swing have done the same. We talk about the famous hip-hop albums as era defining, but the work that JME, his peers and the people that have come after has impacted the country in so many ways, so maybe we should take heed of JME’s words and put this music on the pedestal it deserves.

Treble Clef x Logan – Like Me

Treble Clef needs no introduction, responsible for this track which has travelled further than we’re sure he ever thought it would. Logan is an MC that has made his name on the radio circuit, taking that buzz into recorded output and shows on home turf and abroad. His style is a continuation of the sound man style that grime has been so heavily indebted to since the beginning, one of the only few still flying the flag and actually doing it well. ‘Like Me’ is probably the least hype track on this list, preferring to garner impact from the power of melody instead. It’s a steady stepper, with Logan gliding over the euphonious tones to let us know he’s the mic man you need to be listening to right about now.

P Jam x Capo Lee – Nando’s Riddim

Nando’s Riddim was one of those instrumentals that did the rounds the organic way: generating hype on radio and blowing up sets both live and on the airwaves. If you’ve been into grime for a while, you’ll know that’s a pretty common thing. For it to happen in the streaming age – just like Topper Top did a few years back – is always that little bit more exciting. ‘Nando’s Riddim’ is a proper rave joint, with Capo Lee bouncing over the intricate beat with ease. The release format was simple: vocal, instrumental and brand new track – many grime producers could take heed, as when done right, simple is very effective.

Ghetts – Listen

There was a lot of noise for the latest series of Top Boy, which was revived in the closing months of the year by Drake. To compliment the brand new season, a seventeen track compilation was released, featuring mostly original tracks from some of the UK’s finest. ‘Listen’ was a part of said compilation, featuring two grime heavyweights in Ghetts & Sir Spyro. Here, the power is in the enunciation. Ghetts delivers the back end of the words like a dart to a board, fiercely repping East London and laying down quick fire wordplay.

Saint P, Irah & Discarda – War Mode

Flowdan launched his label SpentShell in 2018, an avenue for him to push artist he rates and get involved in producing grime beats. ‘Welcome To Spentshell’ dropped at the start of the year, acting as a primer to the label’s sound and its most frequent collaborators. ‘War Mode’ was the standout, all brass and tense melody lines. It’s built around a quick fire hook from Saint P and brief verses from Irah and Discarda that travel through the speakers with aplomb. The track feels alive, racing along at pace similar to Roll Deep tracks like ‘Stampers‘, the high energy the MCs are trying to put across felt thoroughly.

Posted by:Ryan Moss

I'm the sole founder, editor and writer for The Art Of Grime. I love grime and want to push all the sick artists doing things at the moment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s